By Lem Satterfield
Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki is 2-0 on U.S. soil, winning the WBO’s cruiserweight world championship in New Jersey by sensational 11th-round stoppage over Marco Huck in August 2015, and defending it eight months later by four-knockdown unanimous decision against former champion Steve Cunningham at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
But Glowacki lost his second defense in in Gdansk, Poland, in September 2016, falling by unanimous decision to 2012 Ukrainian gold medalist Oleksander Usyk, the undisputed IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO champion.
Glowacki (30-1, 19 KOs) returns to America against Russia’s Maksim Vlasov (42-2, 25 KOs) in Saturday’s Ali Trophy cruiserweight (World Boxing Super Series) quarterfinal in pursuit of the WBO’s interim title, his fourth straight victory and fourth stoppage during the run at UIC Pavillion in Chicago.
“It's very important for me to become champion once more in this tournament in America. I want the Polish Americans to come and support me," said Glowacki, 32.
“Their cheering helps me gather strength, so I’m hoping that there will be another large Polish crowd for this fight. I’m going to be a much better Glowacki than the one who beat Marco Huck. The best is yet to come.”
Ranked No. 5, pound-for-pound, by Ring Magazine, Usyk’s made five defenses from December 2016 through July and could rise into the heavyweight division if victorious on Saturday in Manchester, England, against former titleholder Tony Bellew, who is coming off back-to-back 11th- and fifth-round stoppages of former heavyweight titleholder David Haye in March and May.
On the way to winning last year’s WBSS tournament, Usyk stopped Huck in the 10th-round and won decisions over Mairis Breidis (24-1, 18 KOs) of Latvia, and Murat Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOS) of Russia, the latter, in the championship fight. Breidis lost his WBC crown by majority decision in January, and Gassiev, his IBF/WBA crowns in July.
Usyk also decisioned previously unbeaten Michael Hunter (15-1, 10 KOs) of Las Vegas in April 2017. Hunter's since won three straight heavyweight bouts, culminating with last month's 10th-round TKO of 6-foot-6, 256-pound Martin Bakole (11-1, 8 KOs).
“If Krzysztof and Usyk win, and Usyk moves up, [Glowacki] becomes the full WBO champion,” said Leon Margules, Glowacki’s promoter. “He has a tough challenge in Vlasov, who is on at the top of his game, on a hot winning streak and hasn’t lost in a while.”
Vlasov’s won 12 straight (10 KOs), with February’s 10th-round knockout of Olanrewaju Durodola being his eighth consecutive stoppage. In he beats Vlasov, Glowacki’s semifinal features Saturday’s winner of a clash between Breidis (24-1, 18 KOs) and Germany’s Noel Gevor (23-1, 10 KOs).
Cuban former champion Yuniel Dorticos (23-1, 21 KOs) reached the semifinals with last month’s unanimous decision over Poland’s Mateusz Masternak (41-5, 28 KOs), and will meet American Andrew Tabiti (17-0,13 KOs), last month’s unanimous decision winner against Russia’s previously unbeaten Ruslan Fayfer (23-1, 16 KOs).
Glowacki’s crowning achievement was at Newark’s Prudential Center, where he rose from a sixth-round knockdown to deny Huck of a record 14th defense before a packed house of Polish fans. Huck’s equilibrium-stealing left hook temple shot smashed Glowacki to his back, gloves briefly squeezing both sides of his head before stumbling to his feet, into the ropes and managing to survive.
"Marco Huck was a champion with a lot of steam behind him who was working on breaking a record,” said Cunningham, the last man to beat Huck before Glowacki, doing so by 12th-round knockout in December 2007. “But Glowacki was driven. He had that fan base behind him, got up off the canvas, stayed the course and stopped the champion.”
Down on all three judges’ scorecards with 47 seconds left in the 11th, Glowacki clipped Huck’s chin with an overhand left and crumpled him to the canvas with a straight right to his forehead and bridge of the nose. Huck eyes stared at the bottom rope before he staggered to his feet only to be floored for good by Glowacki’s fight-ending, 10-punch assault. Glowacki battled through the pain of pre-fight training damage to his left wrist and shoulder that required surgery in September 2015.
“Power and precision are my trademarks, but fighting through injury was a horrifying experience. It was a left wrist injury, and it happened during the last week of sparring. There was pain and numbness after every punch, but the adrenaline helped,” said Glowacki.
“Doctors said it was a 7-millimeter break on my hand, and there was a part of the bone that was displaced. The plan was to hit him with the left hand, but I couldn’t hit Huck that hard due to my injury. I was a little bit reluctant, but I got more comfortable as the fight went on.”
Glowacki dominated Cunningham by scores of 115-109 twice and 116-108 before facing Usyk, who was 9-0 (all knockouts) and beat a game Glowacki by scores of 117-111 twice, and 119-109 behind a technically superior jab, footwork and clever punch selection.
Glowacki rebounded nine months later with a fifth-round stoppage of Hizni Altunkaya, who entered at 29-0 with 16 knockouts. Glowacki’s past two victories were February’s unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Serhiy Radchenko and May’s first-round KO of Santander Silgado.
“Usyk’s the class of the division, and Krzysztof gave him some very close rounds, although the scorecards didn’t reflect that,” said Margules. “But if Krzysztof is the guy who got up off the canvas to beat Huck, and who beat Cunningham, then he has a great chance at winning the title and this whole tournament.”